Apologia pro Vita Mea -- By: R. Calvin Guy

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 015:1 (Fall 1997)
Article: Apologia pro Vita Mea
Author: R. Calvin Guy

Apologia pro Vita Mea

R. Calvin Guy

Fletcher Professor of Missions
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, NC 27587

Introduction, Explanation, and—If You Need It—Apology

Most of us know John Henry Newman as the author of the deeply moving song, “Abide with Me.” To explain his pilgrimage, a sometimes troubled one, he wrote an explanation of his life, or, in a literal translation from the Latin, “Apology for His Own Life.” Perhaps something like that is in order here, as friends, who are far more generous than unbiased historians, have dedicated this issue of Faith and Mission to the cause of missions and the part that I have been privileged to play in that world since 1948.

To jump to the latter part before explaining the first may be bad chronology, but it will, I hope, provide an understanding of all the rest. The major part of this article is based on an address I made to the trustees of the International Mission Board in 1996, within three weeks of leaving the hospital where I had spent five weeks recovering from a stroke. No one—unless it was the Holy Spirit-asked me to make that speech. I was brazen enough to ask Leon Hyatt, then president of the board of trustees, to let me do it. He was too gracious to say no.

My reason for wanting to share these ideas grew out of a life of caring and sharing them in my classes at Southwestern Seminary for thirty-six years, sharing them with any missionary or friend who would lend an ear, and in any and every other available forum. Along the trail of the years, I developed a deep conviction that “ideas have consequences.”

Those ideas of the years had come to something of a boil in the five weeks in the hospital and rehab center. Night after night I found myself unable to get to sleep for two or three hours because so many new directions were in process at the Mission Board, and in those sleepless hours I was relating experiences and ideas across the years to the developments of the immediate present—and future. I think (and hope) that the ferment, and the sleeplessness caused by it, were the work of the Holy Spirit during those weeks of enforced, away-from-the-usual-work quiet. “Be still and know that I am God” might also be read, “Be still and hear God.” I hope that was what happened.

It must be clearly understood that this is not an official document or policy statement of the International Mission Board. It represents one aspect of the Baptist concept of the priesthood of the believers (more often honored in the breach than in our practice) which insists that we do not forfeit our freedom to think, to care, to agree, or to differ and ...

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